News Column

UVa Department of Drama's 'Crazy for You' shows why fans remain crazy about Gershwin

October 18, 2013


Oct. 18--They've got rhythm. They've got Gershwin. The cast of "Crazy for You" has caught the get-happy musical bug, and director Robert Chapel couldn't ask for anything more.

"It's the oldest Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland plot in the world, and we make no apologies," Chapel said with a chuckle. And after a string of serious productions, including "Parade," "Spring Awakening" and summer's Heritage Theatre Festival closer "next to normal," "it was time to do something that was entertaining and not so though-provoking."

When the curtain rises on the University of Virginia Department of Drama's season opener at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Culbreth Theater, audience members will see -- and hear -- why Chapel had to wait for the right moment to stage what was billed as the "New Gershwin Musical Comedy" when it opened in 1992.

"It requires a tremendous amount of tap dancers," Chapel said. Finding male tap dancers -- let alone ones who can sing and have the comic timing to carry the delightfully lightweight plot without wrinkling it -- can be even more of a challenge, so casting graduate student Mike Fraizer as the well-heeled, tap-happy scion Bobby Child crystallized the project.

Choreographing the show is UVa Drama graduate Emily Vrissis. "She has been tapping since she was 2, she tells me," Chapel said.

Greg Harris is directing the 17-member orchestra, which will be playing the music of George Gershwin while the 33-member cast sings lyrics by brother Ira Gershwin.

"Crazy For You" was adapted by Ken Ludwig -- already known for his Tony Award-winning farce "Lend Me a Tenor" -- from the Gershwin brothers' 1930 musical "Girl Crazy."

The musical's story got tweaked, and about half of its songs were replaced by numbers from other Gershwin musicals, including "A Damsel in Distress," "Shall We Dance," "Ladies First" and "Treasure Girl." That move gave the new show a Gershwins'-greatest-hits appeal; listen for "Someone to Watch Over Me" from "Oh, Kay!" and other tunes to join the "Girl Crazy" classics "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm" and "But Not for Me."

Finding a Gershwin tune that's new to you can be a treat. Chapel said he has enjoyed discovering "The Real American Folk Song is a Rag."

Nice work if you can get it, indeed.

"The story's pretty silly," Chapel said. "It's about the son of a New York banker. All he wants to do is dance."

When Bobby Child's banker mother sends him to toasty Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on a theater that has seen better days, "of course, he falls in love with the only girl within 50 miles," Chapel said. And, of course, Polly Baker just happens to be the daughter of the theater's owner. No matter how the story ends, the show's packed with vintage Gershwin melodies, and they can't take that away from you.

"It's a true family show," Chapel said. "Mainly, they'll get to hear just great Gershwin."

Tickets are $16. Seniors and UVa faculty, staff and alumni association members pay $14, while students and children get in for $10. There's free parking next door in the Culbreth Road Parking Garage. For tickets, visit or dial 924-3376. If you'd rather buy your tickets in person, drop by the box office in the lobby of the Drama Building between noon and 5 p.m. weekdays.

"Crazy for You"

University of Virginia Department of Drama

8 p.m. Thursday; runs through Nov. 2

Culbreth Theatre



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